This is often the time of year when staff are scrambling to finish projects by year-end or preparing to formulate goals, both professionally and personally for the coming year. How can we help our staff to choose a path of success and personal power rather than failure and lowered self esteem?
1. Help them to recognize their strengths. When we first introduce teams, we ask participants to write down a positive skill or attribute for each team member, anonymously. This activity helps members to understand the importance of selecting team members with varied and deliberate skills. It always amazes me at the surprise on some faces when they read what is on that slip of paper, as if seeing themselves and their strengths for the first time. As managers and coaches, isn’t it part of our responsibility to help our staff identify their strengths through tools and training and then develop goals that enhance those strengths? Shouldn’t we be providing opportunities through projects that allow staff to use what they already have to drive performance? Isn’t it our responsibility to review those goals and provide feedback? In training, I have the hardest time convincing some participants that their first goals need to be achievable – to be certain that they can meet that objective. Taking on new challenges doesn’t have to mean moving mountains to get there. You can already be on the first peak. Often with strengths, you already have natural talents and knowledge in particular areas that just need to be developed.
As managers and coaches, isn’t it part of our responsibility to help our staff identify their strengths through tools and training and then develop goals that enhance those strengths?
2. Provide ways to assist them to manage around their weaknesses. Manage weaknesses, not make them the object of our focus. I was talking with one of my colleagues this morning about the results of a team player assessment. I realized how quickly we gravitated toward the discussion of his weakest area rather than the discussion of how he could capitalize on his predominant style. I’m certainly not suggesting that we ignore weaknesses, in fact, just the opposite. You have to be aware of any area that gets in the way of excellent performance. One of the values we find in conducting 360 surveys is that our clients are faced with what others see as their weakest performance in leadership competencies – very clearly identified. In knowing their weaknesses, you can help the employee determine: (1) is it critical to his/her success? (2) What level of competency is needed for success? First, assist the employee in evaluating whether it is a competency that impacts the work performance and ultimate success on the job, as well as that individual’s career aspirations. Then the employee can develop goals and seek out resources to bring that weak area to an acceptable level of performance. Recognize I say “acceptable” and not “exceptional.” Depending on the job and goals, acceptable may be fine. The idea here is not to spend all of the energy and focus on an area of weakness to the demise or loss of an area of strength. You may become a “jack of all trades” but truly “master of none.” Instead, encourage employees to partner and learn from others who may have that area of weakness as an area of strength – work as a team.
3. Capture this knowledge in a development plan that is periodically reviewed and revised. How many times do we encourage our staff to gain some insight into their performance, natural talents, skills or knowledge and it is lost? How many times did we base a hiring decision on those factors never to be looked at again? Help your staff to gather those tools and put the knowledge together to gain, with each insight, a truer picture. I’m reminded of a page in the supervisory roundtable training where we have two blank faces – one, who I am today and the other, who I want to be tomorrow. It really should be one large face on a page where I am adding each year to the face as new experiences develop or bring to light new skills. As years go by, that face begins to take shape, gain eyes, a nose and a mouth etc. Pay attention and learn. It’s easy to make assumptions about individuals based on presuppositions, hearsay, isolated incidents and old information and miss the opportunity to develop raw talent right in front of you.
4. Use this knowledge to make good decisions and develop employee talent. Make changes where they are needed; don’t shy away from decisions. Development of employee talent is an active process; it not only requires an investment of time and energy, but also an environment where development can occur. Sometimes, it has to be accepted to learn what someone isn’t, as well as what someone is. Years ago, when I first started training on supervision skills, I’ll never forget one individual who, at the end of the roundtable, decided not to become a supervisor. I was devastated. I went to my client and apologized. I thought to myself, “What have I done?” He, very quickly, smiled and said, “thank you.” He explained, “You see, by understanding the skills that were needed to be successful, she also recognized the work it would take her to get there. Her skills were best utilized in an expansion of her current role, not a promotion to a supervisory role.”
So I ask you, do you know your staff? Do you know their strengths as well as their weaknesses? Are you capitalizing on their natural talents, skills and knowledge? Would your staff say they are on a path of success and enhanced personal power?